British mining group Gemfields has confirmed it will pay 5.8 million pounds in compensation to nearly 300 artisanal miners over accusations of abuse around a ruby mine in Mozambique, but denied liability.
In a class action suit, Gemfields was accused of hiring police and private security officials who were involved in the alleged torture and death of some residents in the company’s concession area, as well as destroying their property, to force them to leave.
The London-based Leigh Day firm said the suit brought by 273 miners is to be settled with the payout, worth 6.7 million euros ($7.6 million) including the claimants’ legal expenses.
“Gemfields… has agreed, on a no-admission-of-liability basis, the settlement of all claims brought by English law firm Leigh Day on behalf of individuals living in the vicinity of Montepuez Ruby Mining Limitada’s (MRM) mining concession in northern Mozambique,” the mining company said in a statement sent to AFP.
Gemfields denied any wrongdoing but said it “recognised that, in the past, instances of violence have occurred on and around the MRM licence area, both before and after Gemfields’ arrival in Montepuez.”
Gemfields is a majority shareholder of MRM, which won the mining rights to 36,000 hectares (89,000 acres) of ruby-rich land in Mozambique in 2011.
The agreement also provides for an agricultural development and training project, as well as a mechanism for resolving conflicts between MRM and local residents.
The plaintiffs’ law firm, which prides itself on waging “David and Goliath” legal battles pitting individuals against corporations and governments, hailed the settlement, saying it would “provide significant redress to our clients”.
“These incidents should never have happened. However, we commend Gemfields for engaging constructively to resolve this case promptly and for putting in place an independent grievance mechanism,” Leigh Day partner Daniel Leader said.
Mozambique accounts for 80 percent of global ruby production.